On Thursday evening, Nutanix announced their intent to acquire Frame. Terms were not yet disclosed, but as Nutanix is a public company, we should learn some details at some point.
This marks the first exit among the current crop of smaller and newer desktop as a service (DaaS) providers. (I guess these days we also have to point out that we’re talking virtual desktops, and not rented laptops, when we say DaaS.) This also marks another software milestone for a hyperconverged infrastructure vendor that’s going deep into the data center and cloud infrastructure software market.
We (by which I mean BrianMadden.com, the website) first took note of Nutanix in 2011, with Brian declaring them his current favorite startup vendor and asking “Did Nutanix just create the ultimate server/storage big data combo hardware for VDI?” (Also for a blast from the past, check out this Nutanix video interview from VMworld 2011.)
By 2013, we were talking about how new storage vendors and HCI were finally enabling persistent VDI. At BriForum for several years, half the exhibitors in the expo hall would be storage vendors.
So we were sold on HCI, but we also wrote that storage was a commodity. Some vendors got bought, some fizzled out, but since BrianMadden.com was and is more focused on end user computing, we didn’t follow every move in the HCI space.
As it turns out, Nutanix has been doing a lot of interesting work on the software side. Personally, I knew about Nutanix Acropolis, but somehow I completely missed the Enterprise Cloud OS and Xi Cloud Services from June 2017. They’ll eventually have all types of services everywhere, including in their own (albeit delayed, as I learned) public cloud offering.
We first took note of Frame (or Mainframe2, as it was) in 2013; and more recently we noted their support for Azure, funding, hiring of Ruben Spruijt, and partnership with VMware.
The 2014 wave of DaaS may have been a bit of a false start, but in 2017 and 2018, DaaS is really having a big moment, and Frame is a standout.
The combined vision
While VDI no longer makes up the majority of their customer workloads, Nutanix said that it was still near and dear to their heart. They saw the desire for a modern, cloud-native DaaS offering, and Frame was a natural fit.
They plan to make Frame available on Nutanix Xi Cloud, and on Google; as well as continue to offer Frame’s existing AWS and Azure support. Nutanix will use Frame to target mid-market DaaS customers; and for large-scale VDI, they’ll continue their support of VMware Horizon View and Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop.
For the most telling part of the blog post, I’ll quote directly:
“Launching Frame as a Nutanix Xi Service will be an exciting step in this journey, and we look forward to disrupting yet another layer of the enterprise stack – to bring cloud scale desktops and apps, powered by a 1-click user and admin experience to everyone.”
Frame was clearly the most attractive of the DaaS startups; now we’ll see if this creates a rush for any other vendors to make acquisitions. One thing’s for sure, though—there’s a ton of competition in this market, and the vendor that should be most worried is Citrix.
I’m probably late to the game in saying this next bit (as I acknowledged above, I’m just less of an infrastructure person), but it will be interesting to see how Nutanix competes against VMware and Microsoft long term. Looking at efforts like VMware Cloud on AWS, Microsoft Azure Stack, and OpenStack, it’s clear that Nutanix could be another major player in hybrid cloud.
On the EUC side, I could see VMware dropping the Frame partnership after more time developing Horizon Cloud (sort of like how they drifted away from Teradici as they developed Blast). And sure, Frame may be competing with Horizon at some point, but VMware’s EUC stack is now so much more than just desktop virtualization.
Will Nutanix go any farther into EUC? There’s definitely a play for infrastructure vendors to do DaaS/VDI, since it’s so dependent on complex infrastructure; but other aspects of EUC seem more distant and less likely.
Anyway, this is going to be a really interesting period to watch—I’m really curious where things will go next for Frame and Nutanix. Congratulations to both teams!